The surging offense that the Buffalo Sabres showed in the last two games was stifled by the Vancouver Canucks late Thursday night, as the Sabres dropped a 2-1 loss to end their West coast road trip, where they finished 1-1-1.
After piling up nine goals in the opening contests against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, Buffalo’s scoring sputtered, thanks in large part to an astounding effort in net by Vancouver netminder Jacob Markstrom.
Originally foreseen as the backup to former Sabre Ryan Miller, Markstrom has now earned three straight wins in net for the Canucks. He foiled the Sabres on 26 of their 27 shots tonight, including several point-blank opportunities late in the second period as Buffalo tried to fight back on the scoreboard.
More than half the game had been played before either team found the back of the net. Jannik Hansen struck first for the Canucks at 11:10 in the second period after tapping home a loose puck that Robin Lehner failed to corral off a hard shot from Luca Sbisa.
The goal not only gave Vancouver the lead on the night, but also their first lead in regulation all season, where they’ve so far played very tight games.
While Buffalo’s offense continued to dawdle, Vancouver doubled their lead on the power play nearly midway through the third period. A scramble in front of the net eventually lead to Brandon Sutter flipping the puck to a wide open Daniel Sedin, who threw a shot into the open net for his second goal on the year. It was the first time this young season that Buffalo had faltered on the penalty kill.
The Sabres finally made their way onto the scoreboard at 11:23 of the third period on a strange sequence that saw Nicholas Baptiste record his first career NHL goal. Baptiste was deemed the last Sabre to touch the puck with his stick before the puck bounced off a number of players in the crease and was eventually kicked in by Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler.
The play was initially called a no-goal, but a call from Toronto prompted a lengthy review until the referees award the tally to Buffalo. It was then looked at further when Vancouver challenged the play on a goaltender interference protest, but the call was upheld.
Any hope of a Buffalo rally was extinguished when the Sabres inexplicably took a too many men penalty with just under four minutes left to play in the contest—a gaffe that can only be attributed to miscommunication as Nicolas Deslauriers skated out onto the ice while all five Sabres currently playing were chasing after the puck in their own zone.
The loss drops Buffalo to 1-2-1 on the season, while Vancouver continues to thrive, even while Ryan Miller has had to sit out for three contests with a minor abdomen injury. The Canucks are 4-0 to start a year for the first time since the 1992-1993 season, and should continue to prosper with Miller expected to return to action soon enough.
For Buffalo, while the West coast jaunt is finished, their road trip will continue (and conclude) with a stop in Philadelphia to face the Flyers for the first time this year. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 PM EST puck drop on Tuesday the 25th and will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN.
Fans in Buffalo are encouraged to stop out at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery when Sabres Hockey Central hosts its’ first viewing party. The event is free to attend, and we will be raffling off a number of prizes, including a Kyle Okposo jersey. Further details can be found here.